SUFFERING from anxiety, vulnerability and feelings of low confidence? Everyone does at some point — and today’s talk of romantic sweet nothings sure ain’t gonna help. But best-selling LA psychologist Dr Joan Rosenberg reckons she can banish all this bad feeling in less than two minutes. It’s wisdom she’s poured into her new book, 90 Seconds To A Life You Love.
It sounds outlandish but her ethos is simple: if you sit with an unpleasant or painful emotion for 90 seconds, keeping it in your mind without distractions, you will essentially ‘ride it out’. Inevitably, Rosenberg doesn’tbelieve in burying feelings, avoiding negative thoughts or papering over cracks with food, booze or exercise. Instead, what is required is a fronting up to the reality of any unpleasant situation.
Her approach — she calls it the ‘Rosenberg Reset’ — is rooted in neuroscience, which has found that humans experience uncomfortable feelings for only 90 seconds and that facing them builds confidence and resilience. So you just have to hold on.
Of course, we don’t like difficult feelings. Facing them for any longer than a nanosecond before lobbing them into emotional Room 101 is no mean feat. Essentially, though, Rosenberg’s ‘life hack’ consists of a simple formula: one choice, eight feelings, 90 seconds.
The choice is to be present — to face the problematic feelings.
Then you must identify your feelings, which according to Rosenberg fall into one of these eight categories: sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, frustration, disappointment, embarrassment and vulnerability.
Lastly, you must commit to enduring this feeling for 90 seconds and in that time focus on it completely.
Why must we do this?
‘There’s a concept called the window of tolerance,’ explains Rosenberg. ‘When people spend time moving away from what’s unpleasant to them — feelings and thoughts — this means the window of tolerance is very small. Tolerating the unpleasant feeling means it lasts a shorter amount of time long term because you aren’t ruminating on the memory that keeps bringing back the unpleasant feeling.’
The technique needs no practice either, as Rosenberg proves when she works her theory on a cynical me.
I tell her that my own negative thoughts centre on how motherhood has stripped my career confidence, often leaving me feeling lonely and unsure.
‘Those are judgments and not feelings,’ she tells me, asking me to be aware of the difference between thoughts and feelings. ‘But what I hear is frustration.’
I do feel frustrated. My stomach flips and my shoulders feel saggy.
‘Becoming a mum has brought about change and loss that brings frustration and some sadness,’ she says. ‘With this awareness, you move through that. You should sit and feel the frustration that changes have occurred as a consequence of decisions you made.’
Now I feel guilty.
‘That’s a distraction,’ she tells me. ‘Be with the sadness and frustration. Stay present.’
My stomach begins to settle. I sit with my sadness and frustration some more until there is a sense of calm, a relief that I’ve stared down the reality of my frustration.
Although uncomfortable — temporarily — the process has been fairly easy. Why don’t more people do this?
‘People worry about being able to handle their emotions,’ says Rosenberg. ‘They think they’ll start and never stop. But feelings, while intense, are temporary. Thoughts can sustain the experience — if we keep thinking the same thought, we keep eliciting the same experience. And that is why it feels like it never goes away. You need to ride the wave of the bodily sensation — and this is what people really want to get away from.’
So next time you happen upon an upsetting feeling — sadness, shame or embarrassment, say — greet it, hold on to it, let it do its worst to your mind and body… and then, 90 seconds later, bid it farewell. It’s hardly rocket science but it might just propel you into a cheerier day.
■ 90 Seconds To A Life You Love: How To Turn Difficult Feelings Into Rock-Solid Confidence by Dr Joan Rosenberg (Hodder & Stoughton) is out now